Mankind is proud to a fault and, in Champion Archer, too darn proud to rally together while their kingdoms are ravaged by invading Orc hordes. Finally, with one King left for the remainder of mankind humanity goes to the Elven Council to plead for their assistance. The Elven Lords don’t want to get their pretty elven selves (I’m taking liberties) involved in the muddy human kerfuffle as they’re pretty convinced pride is going to cause humans to fall at one time or another. One slightly less snotty Elven Lord sees fit to lend a helping hand, and you play as that brave social outcast who will inevitably be ruthlessly mocked and driven away by his Elven brethren, return to the human kingdom taking up residence on a bar stool and telling the barkeep about the glory days when he took down 100 trolls and survived 80 rounds. In the meantime, slay some trolls!
As the Hero, the Champion Archer, you must use your skills with a bow to pick off the advancing Orcs while men who don’t understand the benefit of ranged weapons even with your shining example before them feebly try to stem the tide. A 2D Castle Defense title, Champion Archer shares some gameplay similarities with its flash game namesake, but instead of moving your archer around the screen you are fixed outside the castle gates. Arrow trajectory can be controlled depending on where you tap onscreen, and velocity is a function of tracking the red meter on the screen to properly time when you let the arrow fly. The story goes that the Orc hordes are invading from the east, and I like to think that is an intentional explanation for why all the enemies in castle defense approach from the same direction and, if you face north, even the right direction!
Mankind isn’t really hip to military tactics, instead preferring to send their young combatants into the fray one at a time, at evenly spaced intervals. As you progress through the levels these little automated roadblocks, your Allies, get lazier and lazier, taking longer to appear onscreen and coming in fewer numbers. You are trying to keep these guys alive as they meander across the screen, because once they make it to the opposite side the skirmish is won. Should, however, the tides of battle turn and the enemy makes it across the screen and to the castle it’s game over. One tricky thing I ran into was when one of the Allies was just to the edge of the screen and started fighting a 99% off-screen enemy. I could see little flashes of dagger, not much else, and for all my firing arrows wildly am still not sure if my efforts to help the little guy out are effectual or not.
As we’ve come to expect, there is some sort of per-satisfied-customer payment scheme at work here, and slaying enemies rewards you with gold. Between rounds a stat screen displays how quickly you completed the stage, how many Orcs, Trolls and Goblins you took down, gold netted and even your accuracy. Also available is a little shopping for upgrades. I always appreciate a vendor’s willingness to adapt and sell me what I most need for the battlefield, like reinforced armor for the dim-witted Allies strolling down the path, or the Double Shot upgrade that allows you to fire off two arrows at a time, and the valuable Quick Shot that increases your firing speed to name a few.
Champion Archer also features Achievements, among them purchasing all the items and upgrades from the shop. There are seven in total for killing certain numbers of enemies or finishing a round in under a minute. The only two I haven’t nabbed yet are Crackshot which requires 80% accuracy and God of Bow for 100% accuracy, admittedly because I favor a more frenetic flying of arrows to careful combat. I imagine this also ties into my reluctance to accept the game’s claim as a strategy title. Since there is no penalty for firing off arrows wildly I didn’t so much have a strategy as a speed and skill challenge. If, however, you play with accuracy in mind there is more of an element of choice in which enemies you need to take down first.
Set over a mostly static background I like the look of the stage though when you get to around level 30 it would be nice to see a stray cat in the background. Maybe villages aflame? The clouds scroll past at two speeds, a nice touch, and I like the look not only of the dashing and mysterious Hero but of all the nasties (especially trolls) I get to take down. The Allies look like they’re very proud of their hair, and I would recommend that they don helmets if they want to get serious about surviving the life and death battle defending their kingdom. The battle theme playing in the background is both fitting for waging war in LOTR style without having a droning effect should you survive double digit rounds.
High scores are tracked locally but the game also uses OpenFeint for global high scores, issuing challenges to friends, and allowing you post achievements to Twitter and Facebook. Currently priced at .99 the game is scheduled for a price hike, and there are already new features headed to the app like dragons and special powers for the Hero, even multi-player dueling. This far in and still not sure? There’s a lite version.
Taking a popular flash game to the portable could have been a lackadaisical effort. The folks at Pocket Monkey Games aren’t layabouts, however, and instead of a stick figure at your fingertips you get a good-looking, slick, archery survival game. An addictive little castle defense title, weapon and armor upgrades and use of OpenFeint for global leaderboards and achievements will have you coming back for more. The only real danger on this battlefield is repetition.